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Election Update: Climate Change Policies, Congressional Energy Bill

Analysis from PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley

TRANSITION UPDATE
The Electoral College met across the country in their respective states and certified the popular vote results with a final tally of 306-232. The outcome finalizes President-elect Biden’s win.

The next step is January 6 when the new Congress meets to certify the Electoral College votes. While Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL-5) said he plans to challenge the electoral vote, this procedure is expected to be a formality with the House quickly voting to certify President-elect Biden’s victory and set up his inauguration on January 20.

Over the past week, the Biden transition team has made several announcements regarding administration positions relevant to the energy sector. 

EPA/CLIMATE CHANGE
Despite discussion of Mary Nichols, California’s top air regulator, being selected, she is no longer considered the frontrunner to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The hesitation is reportedly due to her handling of environmental justice issues in California over the years.

The Biden team is considering more people of color for the EPA role and is closely looking at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan. He previously worked at EPA under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as the Environmental Defense Fund.

Transition officials are also considering Ricky Revesz, an NYU environmental law professor who has been an outspoken critic of regulatory reform undertaken during the Trump administration. 

Former Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has emerged as the front runner for a new role leading the incoming administration’s climate change efforts. This role would work in conjunction with John Kerry, likely focusing on the domestic side of the equation while Kerry handles international aspects.

INTERIOR
New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland continues to be named as the leading contender to head up the Interior Department. There is concern that leaving her congressional seat could imperil the close numbers in the House, especially among the New Mexico delegation. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall also appears to still be in contention.

Both potential picks will be deeply involved in any effort to limit or stop new leasing on federal lands. New Mexico will be one of the most significantly affected states, and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham indicated she would request a waiver for any potential ban on drilling in her state.

ENERGY
Biden announced plans to nominate former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Energy Secretary. Granholm has been actively working to build support among clean energy leaders for either the DOE or domestic adviser role in the White House. She was a big supporter of renewable energy as governor and has ties to the auto industry. She has long been an advocate of transitioning to no/low carbon vehicles and has pushed U.S. automakers to embrace the transition and keep research and development within the United States. 

TRANSPORTATION
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was named Secretary of Transportation. This department will be a major element of the Biden administration’s climate change plan and will likely be a leading agency on the multi-billion-dollar infrastructure plan Biden aims to launch early in his presidency.   

Buttigieg will serve as an important implementor of new auto fuel standards, a national rollout of electric charging stations for electric cars and an upgrade to the nation’s rail connections and ports. 

WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Brenda Mallory has been named to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where she had previously served as general counsel during the Obama administration. Mallory currently is director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE
Congressional leaders are still finalizing the final year-end stimulus package and government spending bill. Of note, COVID liability shield language may be moved to a separate bill that would also provide financial relief for state and local governments.  

Of note to our sector, a sprawling energy package that draws on prior legislation from Senators Manchin and Murkowski has also been finalized. This legislation could be rolled into the end-of-year bill. The Manchin-Murkowski legislation would provide money for energy efficiency technology, fund research into extracting critical minerals from coal waste, and invest in developing carbon capture technology.

The proposed carbon capture program would create a government-funded task force to create a demonstration to capture carbon directly from the air and from industrial activities. The bill includes cash incentives for successful advances and demonstrations of these activities.

While the final bill text has not yet been released, government support for carbon capture presents a unique opportunity for many PESA Members, and PESA will work closely with the relevant agencies to make these opportunities available should the bill pass in its current form.

The bill also contains incentives for energy efficiency programs and does not include emissions reduction mandates.

For more information, please contact PESA Vice President Government Affairs Tim Tarpley.

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